Idaho October 27, 2016
10 Forgotten Ghost Towns In Idaho So Obscure You’ve Probably Never Even Heard Of Them
Did you know that Idaho has over 100 documented ghost towns scattered across the state? That’s a LOT of history to explore! Mining is as deeply embedded into Idaho’s history as its agriculture, the former as a trade which only a mere century ago would cause dozens of clustered communities to spring up seemingly overnight… but all too often, would disappear just as quickly when the money dwindled.
While many of these old, historic boom towns are still standing and well-preserved as shining examples of living history — places like Silver City and Custer — others have fallen victim to time, forgotten by all but a few dedicated historians and left to decay. While these scarce remnants and their stories are so skeletal in their remains that they may not be worth a trip on their own, you can bet that armed with a map and a camera, you’ll still find a lot to love about these decrepit pieces of Idaho history.
Snug in rural Idaho between Idaho Falls and Salmon, the green expanse of Lemhi County's high altitude prairies showcases the ghost town of
-- as well as its twin, Nicholia. Of the two, far more remains of Gilmore than one might think: an abandoned hotel, post office, and a few small remnants laid out in a cluster in the shadow of Sheep Mountain. Its name was a mispelling of John T. Gilmer, the owner of a western stage company, and perhaps if it had been named accurately it would have survived. Today the railroad tracks that brought its residents are long-gone, but the main road through the town's post-apocalyptic remnants creates an eerie thrill unlike any other.
2. Rocky Bar
Driving through Rocky Bar, it's nearly impossible to imagine that this was once one of Idaho's major metropolitan areas back in the 1860s. Spanish prospectors were the first to settle here, and the growth of the town was so explosive that it rivaled Idaho City as a contender for the title of Idaho's capital. When visiting Rocky Bar, just a few miles north of Featherville, add an extra dose of history to the journey by taking a side trip up to Atlanta on the outskirts of the Sawtooths.
You won't hear about it in history circles (do they have those?), but Ulysses was once home to Idaho's largest active gold mine. The original town had an ideal setting near Indian Creek, from which the mill processed low-grade ore for a major profit, but the community was set back in 1904 by a major fire that completely destroyed the plant and Ulysses' hope of riches. Today, a few dilapidated cabins and mining remnants are all that remain.
Rumors of riches in the Salmon Valley brought prospectors over the Montana border in 1866 and straight to what later came to be known as Leesburg, which was named for famed general Robert E. Lee. The findings here were plentiful, at Napias Creek especially, and a second town sprung up (literally) right across the street from Leesburg as a result -- Grantsburg. Uniquely, the two towns shared their main street until Leesburg finally won out as a catchier name for the community. For its brief stint, it was the largest town in Lemhi County.
Scattered near the wooded outskirts of Gilmore, Idaho, Ragtown sprung up as a unique temporary community. Rather than hundreds of log structures, the landscape was dominated by the makeshift shelters that gave the town its original name: Tent Town. When cabins cropped up as necessary to protect workers from Idaho's frigid winters, lore has it that rags were stuffed into the cracks between logs to keep out the chill, giving rise to community's new name.
For all of Idaho's sad stories of mining towns that didn't survive, there are a few that are even more heartbreaking.
was buried in a mud slide, the victim of its own residents' refusals to move, despite the imminent danger.
Tucked away in Owyhee County is perhaps Idaho's most famous ghost town: Silver City. But this neatly preserved town in Idaho's southwest corner is just a little too perfect. For an example of the messier side of mining life, DeLamar is the place to visit, just eight miles west of its once-roaring sister town. This strip mining town showcased the rugged underbelly of mining towns: renowned madams, gambling houses, and bars made it the womanizing capital of the state until 1914 when the war brought plummeting silver prices. Yet despite its abandonment, DeLamar survived as an untouched portion of Idaho's most isolated region. That is, until a tourist burned down the last remaining building with a wayward cigarette fire.
8. Reynolds Creek
Unlike many of Idaho's other ghost towns, Reynolds Creek wasn't so much of a community as it was a valley and road that just so happened to be on the way to Silver City. A school and post office were constructed in the 1880s and the town went through multiple name changes until mail services were rerouted and the town collapsed.
To anyone who's ever traveled the long and lonely stretch between Boise and Mountain Home, the empty landscape is obvious. But despite all appearances, there were once tiny towns dotting the fields of sagebrush and harsh desert grasses. Mayfield is just one of them, but with so little to define itself as a town back when it was one, gets little regard today as even a ghost town. Its fate was one of modernization, as families one by one left for the civilization and security that burgeoning Boise offered.
10. Yellow Jacket
Located in the vicinity of the sunken town of Roosevelt, Yellow Jacket was a 19th century gold rush camp that houses one of the most visually impressive relics of Idaho's mining days: a five-story boardinghouse with a beauty and charm that is fully "Idaho." One of Idaho's most ignored mining camps, which you'll miss if you blink, was never a roaring town like its counterparts. With a population that only peaked around 200, this placer gold town dwindled after 1900 until both mine and mill operations fully shut down in 1942.
The history of Idaho is one filled with the same ups and downs that characterized the entire development of the West. But these near-nameless remnants paint such a unique picture of life over a century ago that they seem just as vibrant as any bustling town alive today. Don’t you think? For a visit to one of Idaho’s best-preserved mining towns — haunted hotel included — check out this
incredible historic ghost town.